Recently, we decided to publish a series of case study-style guides to help you grow a brand new website from 0 to 10,000 visits in 30 days.
And we knew the most anticipated edition of this would be Noah Kagan’s - #30 at Facebook, Sumo / AppSumo co-founder, and former Director of Marketing at Mint.com.
But we had a problem: Noah has previous connections. Like, a lot of them:
Which means it would be far easier for him to grow a website rapidly than us normal people.
And we wanted to make sure the process can be repeated by ANYONE.
So this isn’t an article about how Noah Kagan grew a blog from 0 to 10,000 visitors. He’s done that before and you can’t replicate his clout.
Instead, this is an article about how Noah’s apprentice grew his brand new site from 0 to 10,000 visitors.
The apprentice was just like you and I. He had:
No connections to Zuckerberg.
No big cash pile (or even a budget to spend on marketing).
No email list whatsoever.
A very small social media following.
In fact, his BIGGEST traffic spike on his websites prior to this project was 240 visitors in one day.
Despite these limitations, Noah’s apprentice (Julien) grew a brand new website (that didn’t even have a landing page up yet) with zero traffic to more than 10,000 visits in under 30 days.
And he’s going to show you exactly how he did it in this guide. Strap in.
Take it away, Julien.
There are 1,051,742,910 websites online as I write this.
And yes, a handful of those websites enjoy millions of monthly visits, but the sad truth is that most of those websites see fewer than 50 visitors per day.
Most of those websites will take years to get to their first 10,000 visitors per month - if they don’t give up first.
The competition for traffic is stiff. Is it even possible anymore to rise above the crowd and build a popular website that attracts traffic? And more importantly, can you do so quickly?
As far fetched as this sounds, I have good news for you:
The answer is yes. And I know because I did it.
I’m Julien, and I’m the owner of Sleep Sumo.
I have no knowledge of growing websites. I haven’t worked for any gigantic companies, and I don’t have any special connections.
In fact, I’m a dance teacher. My knowledge of business starts and stops with brick and mortar. So when it comes to growing a website, I’m truly starting from scratch.
Yet I was able to grow Sleep Sumo from 0 to 10,000 visitors per month in 30 days.
In this article I’ll show you exactly how I did it step by step. If you follow this guide, you’ll get to 10,000 visits per month even more quickly than I did. Here are the steps:
In January, Noah posted for an apprentice for this guide:
The website Noah was referring to was Sleep Sumo, and the challenge was to grow a website from 0 to 10,000 visitors per month -- in just 30 days.
As Noah and I began to work together, we had to set some ground rules to make this guide as replicable as possible:
We couldn’t use Noah’s connections.
We couldn’t spend money.
We had to get to 10,000 visits in 30 days.
I had to report progress daily.
I had to document my progress.
We were approaching this as an experiment, and we knew we couldn’t muddle the results with advantages.
But first we had to get the website up.
I’ll just say it…
Even if you execute this entire guide, it would be a waste of your time if you aren’t doing something with this traffic. Traffic is pointless if it doesn’t convert.
We didn’t want to waste time doing a huge launch, creating content, hiring a web designer or trying to find the perfect theme.
Instead, we put up a simple landing page designed to capture emails:
All you need your website to do is to communicate a value proposition and collect emails.
By building your email list, you’re building a traffic generating machine. With the click of a couple of buttons, you have guaranteed traffic -- and not only that, but highly engaged, targeted traffic that are far more likely to like, share, and buy from you.
You can set up a landing page (like mine above) for free with a Sumo Welcome Mat. Once inside Sumo, you create a new form, then toggle Instant Landing Page to On in your forms Visibility settings:
One of the biggest mistakes business owners make with their websites is that they try to do too much at once, and therefore achieve nothing. There’s a quote in the book “Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai” by Tsunetomo Yamamoto that says:
"If you chase two rabbits at once, you will lose them both".
Business owners have huge lists of "priorities" they want to achieve, forgetting what their original goal was. Throughout this entire process, Noah kept me focused on our number one goal:
10,000 visitors in 30 days.
Absolutely everything we were doing was meant to achieve this. If you’re embarking on your own traffic challenge, you need to choose a singular focus.
Pick one goal that is SMART. For example, with Sleep Sumo’s 0-10K challenge:
S - Specific: 10,000 visitors
M - Measurable: Google Analytics
A - Attainable: Quant-based marketing, to show exactly how to get there.
R - Relevant: Inspiring others is what I live for. So going for a crazy challenge like this is very relevant to me.
T - Time-bound: ~30 days. You need a by-when date. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
You can choose to follow along with our goal, or assess your time and energy and go a bit smaller.
Just recognize that you can grow quickly even if you’re starting from scratch.
So once you’ve set a goal, you’re good to go out and try to achieve it, right?
Well, not quite. It’s not enough to just list out a couple of ways to reach your traffic goal. You have to reverse engineer it.
Quant-Based Marketing is a systematic and scientific approach to online marketing that quantifies your expected results. It’s easy to follow, the execution leaves very little up to chance or "what-ifs".
The exact same approach is what:
Noah (Chief Sumo) used to acquire 100,000 users in 6 months for Mint.
Sarah (Content Marketing Sumo) used to get 50,000 Instagram followers in 90 days.
Sumo used to double monthly blog traffic from 100,000 to 200,000 visitors in 30 days.
Work backward from your desired result by taking iterative steps to break the goal down into more manageable goals. Then create an action plan to achieve your goal.
I worked backward from 10,000 visitors. There are many ways you could grow a website to 10,000 visitors per month, like buying 10k worth of paid traffic. But if those visitors aren’t the right people (i.e. they’re not subscribing or buying from you), you’re wasting your money.
That’s why you need a marketing plan that will reach and engage your target audience. Sleep Sumo’s marketing strategy included:
Engaging the target audience on social media and in groups.
It wasn’t always this simple. My initial plan was far more complicated:
The total amount of visitors on my initial spreadsheet was 777 visitor per day, or about 23,000 visitors a month.
But when I sent Noah my plan, he re-focused me on working backward from the goal.
Noah always told me do more of what is working to become more effective.
For example, I stopped posting on my Instagram because it took a lot of time and I wasn’t seeing the return on investment. This gave me more time to focus on other things.
If you’re assessing different marketing opportunities, we scored the opportunities based on two simple criteria:
Ease of implementation.
Once you’ve assessed these two elements, your priorities should be clear. After scaling everything I could be doing, and with that feedback from Noah, I focused on the highest impact tasks to maximize the amount of time we had:
We narrowed down on a handful of effective strategies to reach the total daily traffic target of 567.
We used a quant-based marketing approach to build the plan and work backward from the 10,000 visitor goal.
Before you get to 10,000 visitors, you need to get to 100.
And the best way to do this initially is to start using the tools you already have available to you.
You have a group of highly engaged audience members already. They’re waiting to visit, subscribe to, and share your website and content.
This is true even if you haven’t even launched yet. Even if your email list is empty. So who are they?
Your existing network.
This is your most powerful tool for knocking over that initial traffic domino.
Most people refuse to engage their existing network. They feel "weird" about involving their family and friends in the businesses or websites, so they never reach out.
But that’s backward - because if anybody wants to support you, it’s the people you already know.
I got my first visitors by sharing Sleep Sumo with my family and friends through Facebook groups, Facebook chat, and text messages:
I created a spreadsheet with all my family and friends, and reached out explaining what I was working on, asking them individually either to subscribe or give me feedback.
Reach out individually rather than in a group message on Facebook or Whatsapp. When was the last time you were added to a group message that didn’t annoy you?
Protip: Have a specific call to action for your family and friends. They want to support you, but you shouldn’t expect them to figure out what the best way to do so is. To kick off your traffic, your best bet is to ask them to share your website or content with one or two people they think would be interested.
Hands down the one thing with the biggest impact in my ability to get to 10,000 visitors in 30 days was giveaways.
With giveaways, I grew my email list from 173 to 2,322 in three days:
This is important because your email list corresponds directly to how much traffic you drive to your website.
With just one email, you can send a large portion of your list to your website with a click of a button as you email them about your content. And those people are far more likely to share your content on social media, because they’re already engaged.
Giveaways are great for building your list because they:
Grow your email list extremely fast.
Supercharge your traffic if you embed the giveaway on your site.
Increase your brand’s awareness.
Here’s exactly how to set up a giveaway to collect crazy amounts of emails.
The more targeted your giveaway is the higher the quality of your participants will be. So instead of buying an iPad to give away, work with brands to give away something that’s aligned with your blog or business.
You can do a giveaway with your product or service, buy something outright or work with a company who has a product that is desirable to your list to give it away for free.
Yeah, I know. The last option sounds like the best, right? So, how do you get companies to give you stuff for free?
You need to connect with the companies. And you need to do so on a customer level and not as a company yourself.
Identify a few companies you’d like to work with that offer products or services that are highly desirable to your target audience. Find more than one to leave room for the company not responding or not wanting to work with you.
Once you identify the companies, start emailing them. Here is my email template you can swipe:
Subject: Promoting [Company] to 1000+ people
I LOVE your stuff and want to help get the word out.
My site [yoursite.com] has a growing mailing list of hundreds of people.
Wanted to get y’all more exposure, for free.
Can you donate [x] in a giveaway that I’ll promote out to my audience?
It’s also important to follow up. After all, they say the fortune is in the follow up:
Check out the difference between engaging them as a customer rather than a company:
Company to company approach:
Me: Hey XYZ company. My name is Julien and I'm from SleepSumo.com. I LOVE your product and would like to know if you'd like to be exposed to 1000+ people for free.
Company: No thank you, please remove us from your list.
Customer to company approach:
Me: Hey XYZ company. My name is Julien and I'm a customer in LOVE with your product! I have a blog and I'd LOVE to expose you guys to 1000+ people for free in a giveaway.
Company: Awesome! We love to hear from happy customers. What can we do to help?
Me: Could you donate [specific number] of [product]?
Company: Of course. Where should we send it?
As soon as you mention your company, you’re not talking to them as if you were a customer, and they try to blacklist you and ask you to stop contacting them.
However, if you engage with the company as a customer that loves the product (and you should ONLY contact companies with products you truly love), they’ll be far happier to work with you for the giveaway.
After I tested both approaches on the phone, I used email to close the deal.
Protip: If you want to test the spam-meter of your emails so you don’t get blacklisted or piss people off, send your email to Mail Tester first.[*]
You don’t want to send out spam or anything that could be considered spam!
One of the most daunting things about running a giveaway is how to set it up and collect entries. You want to make it as automated as possible so you don’t have to babysit your giveaway.
The best way to do this is to use a giveaway tool.
There is one free giveaway tool, and one paid that I’d recommend:
1 - Rafflecopter
Instead of going through a process when entering, users can see all entry methods at once, so they can choose which entry option they want.
Participants can enter via Facebook or by email, and you can choose a winner or have Rafflecopter chooses it for you. They also provide a detailed report (in a spreadsheet format) of each user and entry methods – making it easy to verify the validity of entries.
2 - KingSumo
This is the FREE giveaway tool I used. It works great, and you can create an AMAZING looking giveaway in 16 seconds, like the one I set up for my Sleep Sumo giveaway:
KingSumo drives traffic back to your site by generating a unique referral URL for every entrant. Participants are encouraged to share their referral URL on Twitter and Facebook to increase their entries.
You can set how many entries can be earned by each successful referral. And you can give people the ability to unlock more entries by taking specific actions you want them to take (like visiting a blog post, watching a YouTube video, commenting on a Facebook ad, etc.)
When you are setting up your giveaway, plan to make the giveaway last for at least four days.
Four days allows you to maximize the event and generate buzz without dragging it on for too long such that it loses momentum and the participants forget about it.
There is a certain virality that comes with doing giveaways, and you can bake that right in by incentivizing sharing.
Choose 1-2 social media platforms your audience spends time on, and incentivize sharing on those platforms only. Don’t clutter their trajectory by giving them 10 places to share on social media plus entering by giving you their email.
I identified that my target audience spends a lot of time on Twitter, so I incentivized Twitter sharing. Check out how one participant entered the Sleep Sumo giveaway and shared it with a Tweet:
The best place to start getting the ball rolling with initial entries is your existing email list. Yes, even if you only have 5 people on it.
When you send the email, don’t forget to remind them of its end date.
Most people will find out about your giveaway and forget about it if they didn’t enter right away, so let people know that your giveaway is ending 4 hours before it ends.
You get most of your rush at the beginning and end of your giveaway, so sending a reminder email 4 hours before the end will ensure maximum entrants (and therefore more emails):
Tweet out reminders that your giveaway is ending every hour for the last 3 hours, and then for 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and 1 minute:
If you have Hootsuite like me, you can automate this. If not, schedule them to go out via Buffer or another social media scheduling tool.
When the giveaway ends, you get to choose a winner!
Here’s a small traffic tip, though. Don’t just email the winner to let them know they won. Instead, build some buzz and send participants to your website to find out who won through a post or update.
I’ve tested numerous subjects lines for this email, and the two subject line winners are:
Subject line: Congratulation to…
Subject line: The winner is…
Here’s an example of the email that went out to my email list for the winner of the Sleep Sumo giveaway:
This drives traffic and makes it far more exciting for the winner.
Content marketing is important to drive traffic to your website. Content is what helps the search engines pick your website up, educates your customers, and eventually sells your product.
So having a content strategy was important in helping me create daily content.
One portion of my content strategy was to email interview celebrities and people with large networks.
Interviewing is great for a few reasons:
It provides social proof as you feature influencers on your site.
It provides free, engaging content.
The interviews don’t take a long time to create.
Interviewing influencers about their sleep helped me drive traffic, because the interviewees would usually share with their audience - plus I’d be able to build a relationship with them.
Make a list of influencers in your niche or similar niches that reach your target audience and reach out to them with an interview request. List a lot of people, because not everybody will respond. You can expect a 25% response rate.
When I started reaching out, Noah had me send these requests every single day:
This increased my likelihood of landing interviews. Here’s what I would email the people I wanted to interview:
Hey [first name],
Huge fan of your work. Your thing about [x] really impacted me.
I run a popular newsletter about how to improve sleep.
Love to ask you 4 super short questions about your sleep to share with my audience.
An example of this email that was really effective:
Once the person responded to me, I’d send them the interview questions:
With this template, I’ve been able to interview some awesome entrepreneurs, like Hal Elrod, John Lee Dumas, Lewis Howes, Jaime Masters, and Andrew Warner.
Because I featured these influencers, they were also happy to share the interview content with their audience, like Andrew Warner did with his 40,000+ followers:
This drove even more traffic. In a normal piece of content, it would have been very difficult to get these types of influencers to share it. But when you quote or interview them? Of course they want to share it!
Here’s an email script of how I asked them to share it with their audience:
Subject: Thank you SO much for this
Hey [first name],
I'm a beginner. Thank you SO much for this.
Here's your interview. [link]
If you have 3 seconds, it would mean the world if you could share, [clicktotweet link].
No sweat if you can't.
Have a magical day,
Twitter was the best way to promote the content of Sleep Sumo’s interview and to leverage my "guest" audience.
Content where you bring influencers and other people into the mix - either with a viral expert roundup post, interviews and expert opinions, or even just quotes - has virality built right in. It ensures that those people are far more likely to share your content with their large followings.
You can try every technique and strategy in the world, but if you don't implement, you have nothing.
Say it with me, folks: execution and persistence.
Having someone to keep me accountable is one of the only reasons I was able to grow Sleep Sumo’s traffic in such a short period of time.
Daily accountability is challenging and painful. It takes discipline because you have to report every single day on your progress towards your objective. But it is effective, because it will let you know if you're on track or if you need to readjust.
Because remember: What you focus on grows.
You get to 10,000 visitors by paying attention to where your traffic comes from and when. Understanding the basics of analytics is crucial in achieving that.
To stay accountable, email someone every night about what you accomplished and how close you’re to your goal. I did this with Noah for the 30-day experiment, and it was incredibly helpful.
Here’s the type of update I’d normally send Noah:
And I made sure to send it every week to stay on track:
Result = Got shit done.
Even if you’re not doing a challenge like I was, finding somebody to stay accountable to will make sure you don’t fall behind or rest on your laurels.
Find a mentor, coach, or even just somebody who is working toward something similar to hold you accountable to your goal.
Send weekly - if not daily - updates on how you’re progressing and what you’re doing to reach your goal. It’s best to do this with somebody who knows marketing enough to give you feedback and point out blind spots you might have.
You might be wondering whether I was able to swing it.
Was I able to go from launching my website from scratch with no connections, no money and no advantages to over 10,000 visitors?
I’ll let the Google Analytics screenshot do all the talking:
If you can’t see that image, the answer is YES. I did reach 10,000 visitors in 30 days.
Reaching 10,000 visitors was very rewarding. There’s a lot I could do with that amount of traffic. For example:
I could go to a mattress company and sell ad space on my site.
I could work with a sleep company for sponsorships.
I could create my own product and sell it to my list.
I viewed it more as an experiment and a challenge (so I didn’t pursue the site any further).
In life you either put limitations on yourself or allow others to limit you. The only limit is the one you set yourself.
If you want an extra boost to help you reach your first (or next!) 10,000 visitors a month, get the marketing plan and templates I used for Sleep Sumo.
If you enjoyed this 0-10K article, check out the others in this series: